Undefeated Trickmeister, making his first start in nearly 16 months, showed little rust Dec. 17 at Gulfstream Park, winning the $60,000 Harlan's Holiday Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths for his fifth consecutive triumph (VIDEO).
Trained by Rick Dutrow Jr. for owners Pegasus Holding Group and IEAH Stables, the brilliant 4-year-old colt won in front-running style over five rivals in the 1 1/16-mile dirt test, an unusual distance at Gulfstream. Trickmeister, who has never trailed at any call in his career, was clocked in 1:42.63.
The victory aboard 7-10 choice Trickmeister gave jockey Javier Castellano his fifth win on the Gulfstream program.
Trickmeister has been out of action since dominating the Pleasant Colony Stakes at Saratoga by nearly 12 lengths in August 2010. The son of Proud Citizen had been sidelined with a cannon bone injury, and then sustained a cracked tibia when returned to training last winter, according to Dutrow.
“He showed us what we were hoping to see," Dutrow said of the comeback. "We weren’t looking to put on a show, just to go out there and do it the right way. I think he’s come back solid, like his issues are behind. He’s got a ton of talent.
"We schooled him in the paddock coming off the long layoff and it was like he had been there every day. He’s a cool customer. Now we’ll point him for the Donn (gr. I).”
The 1 1/8-mile Donn Handicap is Feb. 11 at Gulfstream.
Dutrow took over training duties from Cindy Jones when Trickmeister was purchased privately by IEAH. The transaction occurred prior to the 1 1/8-mile Pleasant Colony, in which Trickmeister earned a 104 Beyer speed figure.
Breaking just before the clubhouse turn in the Harlan's Holiday, Trickmeister took the lead from Sky Venture shortly after the start. He clicked off quarter-mile fractions of :23.81, :47.18, and 1:11.01 while opening up a 2 1/2-length advantage over I'm Steppin' It Up.
Multiple graded stakes winner Duke of Mischief, also prepping in the Harlan's Holiday for trainer David Fawkes, made a three-wide move rounding the bend to reach contention. But Trickmeister, hugging the inside, propelled off the turn to a big edge that he expanded to five lengths at the furlong marker. He was ridden out by Castellano.
“He was really impressive today," Castellano said after riding Trickmeister for the first time. "He broke sharp and just cruised on the lead."
Asked about his five-win day, the jockey responded, “It’s unbelievable. Florida is like my home. This is where I started. It would mean so much to me if I could be leading rider here. I’ve been getting a lot of support from (trainers) Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown. Hopefully there will be more days like this.”
Trickmeister paid $3.40, $2.60, and $2.10 while boosting his career earnings to $187,200. Bred in Kentucky by Brereton C. Jones and Timothy C. Thornton, the bay colt is out of the Afternoon Deelites mare Afternoon Trick.
Our Dark Knight ($5.20, $3.60), employing a ground-saving trip for Elvis Trujillo, held second safely by a half-length over Sky Venture ($4) and Juan Leyva. Duke of Mischief tired to fifth in his first race since an unplaced effort in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 6.